Saturday, May 06, 2017

El Arco Iris

On Thursday, April 27th, Aaron, Soren, and I went to the closing night of El Arco Iris, our favorite Mexican restaurant.  I discovered El Arco sometime during my freshman year at Occidental.  I honestly don't remember how.  If someone here introduced me, thank you.  I discovered their amazing nachos topped with chorizo, which became a fallback splurge when I wanted some yummy food.

Then when Aaron and I were dating during his freshman and my junior year, I took him to El Arco.  I continued to enjoy the nachos while he ate the crispy ground beef tacos with cheese and a double side of fluffy rice.

After our college years, we didn't return to El Arco until we moved back to the area in 2000.  We introduced Moira and Soren to the restaurant, which was always family friendly.  As Aaron and I got older and our diets changed, we started having their fajitas instead of the nachos and tacos.  And we also started enjoying their fantastic margaritas.

When we heard that El Arco was closing for good on Thursday the 27th, we decided to venture out and have our ORIGINAL orders of nachos and tacos for the last time.  Moira was busy, so it was just me and my guys.  And the place was PACKED!  At a table near the front sat an old lady—one of the original owners of the restaurant—rolling utensils into napkins.  A bouquet of roses with a card saying Thank You sat on the table. People went up to her and thanking her for all the wonderful meals they had at her restaurant.  The wait list was on the table with her, so I wrote my name down and we settled in for a long wait.  There were some spare chairs, basically in the middle of the restaurant, so we wheeled Soren over and set up camp. 

Soren was VERY excited to be at El Arco.  He’s always liked the lighting there.  And there was so much talking that he wiggled happily at the sound of it all.  I tried to take pictures of him, but Soren is very hard to capture.  Plus, as soon as a camera is directed towards him, he puts his head down.  He hates the paparazzi.  During our hour long wait, I also fed Soren via G-tube while Aaron got us margaritas.  Aaron also snagged chips and salsa from a passing waitress.  As time ticked on, we were fearful we weren’t going to get in before Soren started melting down.  But just as we were about to give up, the hostess called us over to our booth and we sat down.

As we did, a woman in her late 50’s-early 60’s came up to me.  She told me that she loved watching us with Soren, seeing how we interact with him.  This kind of thing happens to us now and again.  Strangers approach us in regards to Soren.  People in the market have blessed us.  A woman in a diner gave me 20 dollars for him.  It’s startling sometimes.  But it’s also very sweet.  And it’s much better than when people stare at the boy.  Anyhow, this woman was complementing me on how we treat him like any other kid.  I thanked her, expecting her to return to her table.  But instead, she began to tear up and sat down next to me.  She told me that her 35-year-old daughter is pregnant and the doctor just told her that the baby tested positive for Down syndrome. 
This woman was devastated.  She looked at Soren (who does not have Down syndrome in case anyone is confused), and just marveled at what a sweet boy he is.  I told her that people with Down syndrome could be very high functioning.  MUCH higher functioning than Soren!  Then she told me that the doctor told her daughter to have an abortion. 

Okay, now all I could think was, “I am not qualified to counsel this woman!”  But I told her that was a very personal decision that her daughter would need to make.  Then she said that her daughter wanted to keep the baby.  And that she wanted to be a grandma.  (She was really taking me on a roller coaster ride of emotions in a span of seconds, let me tell you.)  I said that if her daughter chose to keep the child, then they would love that baby and get him or her what they needed.  That there are early intervention programs for children with disabilities and therapies to help them.  She seemed encouraged by my words, thanked me, and left the table.  As she did, I thought about how happy I was that we went out that night.  And that we brought Soren.  Clearly seeing a family with a child with disabilities was something this woman needed.  

After that, Aaron and I then had a much-needed second margarita along with our nachos and tacos while Soren wiggled in his chair enjoying our final night at El Arco Iris.


Sunday, January 08, 2017

Skating with Soren

I love to roller skate.  Because I grew up in the 70's and 80's, I learned to skate on traditional, quad skates.  As a kid, I would skate on my street, which was basically a dead-end, so it was safe.  And going to the roller rink for birthday parties or just to hang out was a regular occurrence.  Plus the 80's had fantastic movies like "Xanadu" which featured roller skating.  And I don't know about you, but this girl wanted to be just like Olivia Newton-John.

When I was around 12 or 13, I got my own pair of skates--white boots, red wheels and toe stops, and sparkly red and silver laces.  I still have those skates to this day.  And because I didn't bother growing much during puberty, these skates still fit!  Now, I'm not a great skater.  I can't cross one leg over the other as I skate or go backwards or do tricks.  I also can't skate using rollerblades.  I tried, but they just don't work for me.  But in my old-school skates, I can go forwards, not fall, and stop.  I feel like these are the basic necessities in skating.

In 1997, I was in a play where I played a roller-skating clown.  Yes, you read that correctly.  A roller-skating clown.  And in 1999, I would even roller skate to work a couple times a week because I lived 3 miles away and it was a straight shot down Ventura Blvd. from Coldwater to Sepulveda.  (I would get a ride home though, cause after that 3 miles, I was exhausted!)

In 2000, I moved to an area with hills and busy streets, so my skating significantly decreased.  But there is a skating rink near my area.  The Moonlight Rollerway.  I actually first went to this rink before I had kids.  Two of my friends had their wedding reception there and it was bitchin'.  And, much like riding a bike, I can put my skates on and start rolling.  After having kids, my daughter Moira was invited to birthday parties and would have Girl Scout events at Moonlight.  I know that I took Moira on her own to one of these events, trying to teach her how to skate, which is always a dangerous endeavor.  It's less about skating and more about making sure your kiddo doesn't fall, wiping out even more skaters.

But another time, I needed to take Soren with Moira to Moonlight.  By this time, Moira was better at skating on her own and Soren was using a wheelchair.  I thought, "Hey, I'm allowed to use my outdoor roller skates on the rink.  Soren's chair has wheels.  I bet I can skate with him on the rink!  This will be so much fun!"  But when I arrived at Moonlight, I discovered that there were only steps to get in--no ramp.  This seemed so weird to me.  You have people on wheels, why wouldn't you have a ramp?  They didn't even have a ramp around back.  So I hauled Soren and his chair up the steps (thankfully both were smaller at this point, but it was still rather tricky).  Once I got up the stairs, I asked if I could skate around the rink with Soren in his chair.  The answer?  No.

I was very annoyed.  How were my wheels or the wheels of someone's rollerblades any different than the wheels on his chair?  As long as we weren't causing a hazard on the rink, why couldn't we be allowed on?  Plus I was really excited to share something I love with Soren.  Instead, he had to hang out on the sidelines, either with me or other moms.  I went out on the floor a couple times, skating by myself or with Moira.  But I felt so bad for Soren not getting to participate.  After that, I didn't return to Moonlight.

Fast forward to late 2016.  I was on Facebook and saw a post from my friend.  Her son is also disabled, and while he can walk, roller skating wouldn't be a safe activity for him.  This boy often uses a chair as well.  And my friend posted a video of her roller skating while pushing her son in a chair at a roller rink!  I commented to her immediately.  Where was this?  Her answer:  Moonlight Rollerway.  WHAT?  I asked if they now had a ramp.  YES!  And they allowed chairs on the rink?  YES!!!!

Finally!  I would be able to skate with Soren!  Because life is busy, we didn't actually get there until December when we were invited to this same boy's birthday party.  I put on my skates and pushed Soren around and around that rink.  He was wiggly and adorable, clearly enjoying it.  It was amazing, just as I'd always imagined.

In fact, we had so much fun, we went back this week.  Soren and I met up with one of his other friends who also uses a wheelchair.  His mom and I had a blast skating our boys around.  When we were done, someone from Moonlight came up to us and asked if we had a good time.  I told her we did.  Though next time we go, I'm going to be sure to thank her for making the roller rink inclusive.  It's so hard to find things that Soren enjoys.  And we've tried many, many things.  So it's wonderful to discover that Soren loves whooshing around the rink with the disco lights flashing and the music blaring just like his mom.

Time to show him "Xanadu!"